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Jar City (Reykjavik Murder Mysteries 1) Paperback – 7 May 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (7 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099541831
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099541837
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Arnaldur Indridason worked for many years as a journalist and critic before he began writing novels. Outside Iceland, he is best known for his crime novels featuring Erlendur and Sigurdur Óli, which are consistent bestsellers across Europe. The series has won numerous awards, including the Nordic Glass Key and the CWA Gold Dagger.

Product Description


"A chilling read" (The Times)

"Highly recommended...thoroughly gripping...impressively moving" (Time Out)

"A chilling Icelandic saga of the DNA age. This careful, sparsely-written book operates at a deeper level than most crime fiction" (Independent)

Book Description

'A fascinating window on an unfamiliar world as well as an original and puzzling mystery' - Val McDermid

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

93 of 99 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross TOP 500 REVIEWER on 11 April 2006
Format: Paperback
One of my major problems with many police procedurals is that the plots often go completely off the deep end and become wildly improbable messes (among Scandinavian authors, I think Henning Mankell is frequently guilty of this). So, it's somewhat refreshing to come across a relatively straightforward story like this award-winning series debut from Iceland. In it, we are introduced to Detective Inspector Erlendur, a classic 50ish, divorced, rumpled, morose, tactless, and running-to-seed character who nonetheless possesses the requisite instinct to be a top detective. Although he lacks some of the perfunctory traits often assigned to such characters (for example, he isn't a gourmand, or jazz aficionado, or anything like that), he's very much in the mold of Sejer, Rebus, Resnick, and other such policemen protagonists.

We meet Erlendur as he is called in to investigate the apparent murder of an elderly man in Reykjavik. It doesn't take long for the police to discover that the old man was a nasty character who had been accused of rape almost 40 years ago. With little to go on, other than the possibility that it was a random break-in gone wrong, Erlendur leads his team deep into the past, to try and uncover who might have had a motive for killing the old man. The further they dig, the more nasty secrets they uncover, and the more they must engage in very uncomfortable interviews that dredge up hidden pain. The plot and solution hinge on an aspect of Icelandic society that is rather unique, and it's nice to see the author taking advantage of this to good effect. Another subplot (which is rather extraneous) involves a runaway bride, and meanwhile, Erlendur must also try to deal with his drug addict daughter who flits in and out of his life.
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80 of 86 people found the following review helpful By RachelWalker TOP 500 REVIEWER on 29 Aug. 2004
Format: Paperback
Indridason has amassed quite a collection of credentials even before this, his English language debut, which is sure to bring him even more. This novel won The Glass Key Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the year when it was published. Very good, but nothing new - so have Henning Mankell, Peter Hoeg and Karin Fossum, among others. However, he also won the same award the following year, with the follow-up to this book, Lady in Green. It was not only the first time any author had ever won two years in a row, but also the first time any author had even won it twice, ever. Indridason also has the accolade of having had, during one week in April 2003, FIVE of his novels on the Icelandic Top Ten Bestseller Lists. He has also been compared to Henning Mankell - which, if true, is going to be very pleasing indeed.
It's not quite of the Mankell class, (then, what is), but Jar City (the title does become clear), is a very good crime novel indeed. It seems clear to me that, right now, the place to look for excellent crime fiction is Europe, for several reasons. One is simply the sense of freshness there is to it all, and the insight into other cultures. Another is the fact that almost all fiction from the continent (or Iceland!) is notably free of clichés of any sort; at least clichés that are held in the English crime writing world. Again, that's all true of this excellent novel, which centres around the investigation into the murder of an elderly man in his Reykjavik flat. He had almost no friends (one of them is in prison, the other disappeared 25 years ago), and he himself was accused of rape many years ago, though the case was dismissed due to a lack of evidence. Although he was guilty.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jl Adcock VINE VOICE on 20 Oct. 2011
Format: Paperback
Arnaldur Indridason's opener in the Erlendur series is a cracking piece of writing and storytelling. Without trying to be too clever by half with the plot, he weaves in a powerful, ultimately sad and shocking story of family secrets, murder, and relationship breakdowns. Erlendur, the central character, is cleverly drawn with an already interesting back story and series of personal issues (not least with his errant daughter) - but some of the supporting cast are a little secondary in this opening story.

The stark landscape of Iceland plays a central part in the doom-laden atmosphere of the book, but descriptions of life in the country are kept to a minumum, so at times the unique setting of the books for a UK audience isn't as strong as it perhaps could be.

As the story builds, Indridason avoids the trap of rushing to a finale more worthy of TV serials and films, and, although exciting and gripping, there is a sense of restraint and underlying melancholy and despair as the plot strands come together. Rare in this form of fiction, but through skilled writing, Indridason makes you feel a good deal of compasion and interest in most of the characters and the terrible events they are drawn into.

A magnificently engaging book, full of themes that stay with you beyond the last page; always the sign of a powerful and well-crafted piece of writing. Recommended.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By J. Milton VINE VOICE on 26 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having just finished the Kurt Wallender series of novels by Henning Mankell I was looking for a series of similar ilk to sink my teeth into. I read that the author of Jar City has won several awards for his novels and having been to Iceland I thought I would give this series a try.

I have no problems with the plot. The story is very well told and remains a mystery until the very end. It also manages to weave in some very controversial issues that were very current at the time of writing in Iceland. However, a good plot alone does not make a novel.

I have two main criticisms of Jar City. Firstly, that there is not much in the way of landscape descriptions. A lot of people read Scandinavian crime thrillers as they are cut from a different cloth from those written in the UK and add an element of the unknown. I got none of this in Jar City, for the most part it could have been a detective novel written in Edinburgh or Oxford. Secondly, I felt that the characterisation was very poor and as a result don't know very much about them.

Overall, a very good plot that is let down by some poor characterisation and lack of description of place.
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